Buyers looking for a smart choice in the minivan segment will undoubtedly find themselves considering the Toyota Sienna. Since its introduction in 1998, the Toyota Sienna has won over families with its versatility, features, safety record and reputation for reliability. There have been three Toyota Sienna generations. The newest one is the most capable and stylish yet, but just about any year of Sienna comes recommended.
Space and versatility are hallmarks of a good minivan, and the Toyota Sienna certainly has those attributes going for it. Among the few competitors in this arena, however, the Sienna is a standout for the many choices and features presented to the prospective minivan owner. Buyers can choose between two engines, opt for an all-wheel-drive version and there’s even a sporty model available. Add these to the Sienna’s long list of features and it’s easy to see why the big Toyota beat out all others in a recent comparison test.
Base-trimmed Toyota Siennas are powered by a 2.7-liter inline-4 that produces 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Our pick, however, is the 3.5-liter V6 with 266 hp and 245 lb-ft of torque that is standard on higher trim levels and optional for the rest. This powerful V6 gets the Toyota Sienna moving with much more authority, while managing to achieve similar fuel economy numbers. On top of that, those who drive in inclement weather have an all-wheel-drive option at their disposal. Regardless of which engine or configuration you choose, a competent six-speed automatic is the sole transmission offered.
More choices, in the form of five trim levels, allow buyers to select the right Sienna for their needs. Feature highlights for the base Toyota Sienna include tri-zone air-conditioning and full power accessories. The LE adds items like a rearview camera, power-sliding side doors and an upgraded audio system. The SE tacks on sporty exterior treatments, firmer suspension tuning, a power liftgate, leatherette/cloth upholstery and automatic climate control. The XLE goes without the sporty looks and ride, but adds more appeal with a sunroof, leather upholstery and, on AWD models, second-row lounge seats with pop-up footrests. The Limited features dual sunroofs, a power-folding third-row seat and premium audio. Adaptive cruise control, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a navigation system highlight the options list.
In reviews, we’ve been impressed with the Sienna’s versatile interior, even if the dashboard materials and design are a notch below the previous Toyota Sienna upscale standard. Seven-passenger Toyota Sienna allows the second-row captain’s chairs to be pushed together to create a bench seat. The eight-passenger version uses a second-row bench, while models fitted with the lounge seats offer La-Z-Boy comfort to those in the second row, provided their legs aren’t particularly long. On the road, the V6’s smooth and powerful acceleration impresses. By comparison, the four-cylinder makes just adequate power. The cabin is quiet at speed, and the ride is comfy. Overall, the Toyota Sienna belongs on any minivan shopper’s short list.
The current Toyota Sienna represents the model’s third generation that debuted for the 2011 model year. There have been no major changes since.
The second-generation Toyota Sienna a was produced from 2004-’10. We would recommend looking at 2005-and-newer models (built after February 2005), as Toyota strengthened the van’s side structure and revised the side airbags to improve performance in side-impact crashes. Side airbag protection was made standard on all Toyota Sienna for the 2006 model year; previously, these bags were standard only on the XLE Limited and optional on other trims.
From 2004-’06, the Toyota Sienna had a 3.3-liter V6 good for a stated 230 hp. Due to revisions in SAE testing procedures, the Sienna’s stated hp rating dropped from 230 to 215 in 2006; acceleration and performance were unaffected, however. From 2007-’10, the Toyota Sienna featured Toyota’s excellent 3.5-liter V6 rated at 266 hp.
Trim levels for the second-generation Sienna consisted of the affordable CE, the midrange LE, the upscale XLE and the Lexus-like XLE Limited. Most used-minivan shoppers will be happy with the CE or LE, and these are the trims to look at if you want the eight-passenger option, which places a three-person 40/20/40 bench seat in the second row in lieu of twin captain’s chairs. The center section of the bench seat slides forward to give parents easier access to a baby in a car seat.